Sales Management Digest

Three Ways Inside Sales Teams Inadvertently Sabotage Sales
Brian Birkett
For many business-to-business (B2B) companies, inside sales reps (ISRs) and sales development reps (SDRs) are the first point of contact for inbound and outbound leads. Because they are optimized to quickly qualify and pass potential opportunities, they are a vital piece of your business. They allow you to build pipeline faster and more cost effectively than your field sales team can.

This is the ideal scenario – but it doesn't always happen this way. Here are three ways an inside sales rep can accidentally sabotage your sales pipeline.

1. Prospecting to current customers

With the popularity of account-based marketing, teams are tasked with driving activities toward target accounts for up-selling and churn mitigation. This means engaging not just the ideal decision makers but targeting many people in an organization who could impact a sale.

As these lead-generation activities become more effective, you'll see many new names come into the system as first-time leads. If the ISR doesn't take the time to see if the lead matches existing accounts and opportunities, you'll never know when a lead is from a customer or company in a current sales process. There's nothing more embarrassing than taking a cold-call approach with someone who already uses your services.

The fix: Set up an account-naming convention based on a common set of practices, such as not using abbreviations, and a clear hierarchy of parent-child company designations. Marketing operations and sales operations should meet to roll out the plan and provide a method for updating and maintaining lead information.

2. Spending too much time researching and not acting fast enough

Inbound leads have a short shelf life. The longer it takes to reach out, the less likely that prospect is to respond. Our clients tell us that their ISRs can often spend between three and eight minutes researching a lead in their CRM system and the Internet before calling, as they need to put the lead into context before picking up the phone.

Diligence is great, but they're also wasting precious time when they could be connecting with that prospect. Conversely, if they don't do their research, they will deliver the wrong sales message to the prospect and miss an opportunity.

The fix: Help your ISRs with a short, repeatable methodology to research the new leads prior to each call. For example, check against your customer list, look up name and background in LinkedIn, search social networks for recent interactions, pull company overview from Yahoo! Finance, visit the "About us" page on the company Website, search Google for news about the company, etc.

3. Calling into duplicate leads that are assigned to other reps

Nothing kills sales morale and productivity more than when reps have to split a commission because another rep inadvertently – or maliciously – "duped" the lead or account.

The sales team's number one goal is to hit quota, whether it's based on meetings or dollars. When a "qualified" lead gets duped and requires a split, it's as if someone stole something from the first rep. I've even seen the best reps get derailed and waste their manager's time trying to figure out the resolution based on the sales rules of engagement. This is more than just distracting to the losing rep, it's debilitating.

The fix: The sales-operations team needs to develop and strictly adhere to a rules-of-engagement policy with sales management. Sales operations should develop procedures and reports to proactively monitor and clean up issues. Sales operations should also regularly schedule education and training, both for new hires and seasoned reps, so the sales reps stick to the right procedures.

Businesses want to ensure that they get the most out of each interaction with target accounts; hence, a time investment in your lead follow-up methods and inside sales procedures will help your ISR and SDR teams function more smoothly. Most importantly, you can prevent reps' unknowingly calling into an existing customer, thereby delivering poor customer service and stepping on team members' toes.

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